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In last week’s blog, I outlined seven smart project questions that you need to master. You might have read that blog and thought that if you could just ask the right questions, everything else will fall in place. Nice thought, but asking smart questions is not all there is to successful project management. In this week’s blog, I talk about some other factors.

Develop better soft skills.

Seth Godin writes that we should stop calling them soft skills. He’s talking about leadership, charisma, attitude, dedication and a slew of other interpersonal skills. He contrasts soft skills, which he says we should call real skills, with vocational skills, such as engineering, software coding, piano playing and a gazillion other skills that are taught in schools and required for the job.

Project management is not just about knowing how to run a project or create effective management reports. It’s about getting along with people in a way that is motivational. So, regardless whether you call them soft or real skills, keep working on them, and avoid putting jerks on your projects.

Learn to listen attentively and articulate back what you hear.

Recently, I was attending a webinar and I noticed people asking questions that were, frankly, incomprehensible. The speaker was stuck – trying to figure out how to understand what was being asked, without making the asking party feel stupid. The subject was complex to begin with, and attendees were people with sophisticated knowledge.

The speaker did what he could, but the trick that he didn’t try is one I like. He never tried to articulate back to the listeners what he thought he heard. Had he tried that, he might have understood the question better.

I think this trick is particularly helpful in project meetings where everyone is discussing alternative ideas. Before you step in and try to offer another idea, how about re-capping the last suggestion? Sometimes it helps.

Polish your communications.

From putting together an effective agenda, to documenting what ‘done’ means for each activity, to crisply articulating what is happening on a project when the CEO asks you, the need for skillful communications is ever present. If you have not read my blog on improving written communications, check it out here. If your team regularly practices articulating back what it hears, you can soon find out if your verbal communications need work. Even the best among us have opportunities for improvement, so spend time polishing your communications.

Focus on your documentation.

Projects always have a lot of details. You have a choice of trusting memories and people or documenting those details. In the beginning it is easy to think that you will remember that Mary Sue doesn’t like email and that if you want her attention, you need to call her. But as work progresses, there are more and more of those little details. Focus on documenting the details in a way that works. Scribbling them on a desk blotter is probably not the best idea.

Learn more about project management.

Just because someone is good at asking smart questions doesn’t mean that they understand what to do with the answers. This is where having good processes is important.

Good news!! I start a six-week series next week that will take you through the important aspects of project management. How about signing up for my newsletter so that you get a direct link to the blog post and either a productivity tip or a book review?